Monday, February 1, 2016

recent reads; The Pulp Feast of Philip Jose Farmer

Well, I went there. Yes, I did. I'd heard and read all the warnings about the graphic content, and that the sequel novels were more pulp action and probably more to my liking. But, I felt I needed to start at the start. Yes, I read Philip Jose Farmer's A Feast Unknown.

Lord Grandrith (Farmer's Tarzan pastiche with extra bits added) faces off against Doc Caliban (Farmer's Doc Savage pastiche with extra bits added) as they battle across Africa. It turns out these men are immortal, servants of "the Nine" - a world-ruling cabal. Eventually the two men learn the Nine have been orchestrating most of their lives, including the setup to kill each other.

Admittedly, predictably not my cup of tea. The sexual graphic stuff I was all right with. Other stuff I could do without. Some of it borders on "body horror" when you think about it. I felt the tone shifted from weird to snide to outright farce by the end. Pretty much rated X, for real.

Titan edition
I enjoyed Lord of the Trees more, as Farmer gave us more of a straight forward pastiche of Tarzan with his Lord Grandrith character. Seeking revenge on the Nine, Grandrith again fights his way across Africa. In some ways it felt like a re-tread of the first portion of A Feast Unknown, with the graphic content dropped. Much more of a PG-13 tone. Or even PG.

I did feel the action was repetitive, though, in and of itself. It felt like one of those novellas stretched to a short novel. I probably won't give it a re-read. I have too many original ERB Tarzan stories to read, and perhaps even Farmer's authorized pastiches of Tarzan.

Original ACE Double cover, backed with THE MAD GOBLIN
The Mad Goblin follows along the same lines. The action takes place in a German castle and village. The action occurs simultaneously with the events of Lord of the Trees, as Doc Caliban hunts down one of the Nine who has defected and is at war with both the Nine and Doc Caliban & Lord Grandrith.

The action felt more varied, here, though it also felt a touch repetitive and stretched beyond its natural length.
Original ACE Double cover
I've not read much Doc Savage, so I didn't bring any baggage to The Mad Goblin. Maybe that's why I enjoyed it the most of the three novels.

Titan reprint
Like Tarzan, I am far behind on reading original Doc Savage stories. I'd prefer that to re-reading The Mad Goblin

You could probably read Lord of the Trees & The Mad Goblin without first reading A Feast Unknown. You might be missing the backstory but that wouldn't take away from the adventure.


  1. I've tried Farmer several times over the years, and...,um, no. On the surface, it sounds like I would enjoy his stuff, but I've found that most of it isn't my tankard of ale.

    1. I might try his Opar tales sometime but .. plenty of other reads to get to before then.

  2. His Opar books were good, and the first five or six in his World of Tiers series. A Feast unknown was just rather silly it seemed to me. I gave it 2 stars on Goodreads.

  3. I have some of the Opar books but haven't read them yet and I grabbed the Tiers books because one of my friends said they were good years ago, but I haven't ever cracked them open.

    I think I'll pass on these. I'm still haunted by how great I thought Mark Smylie's 'The Barrow' was when it came to world building and straight pulp adventure BUT the over the top graphic sex ruined it for me - it was just too much. I'm still kinda irritated at the thought of it.